The NBA season is almost a quarter of the way through and I’ve had to deal with the growing pains of a young Cleveland Cavaliers team. Well, to help me through this painful season, I’ve decided to take part in a few NBA games released for consoles. First up is 989 Sports, NBA Shootout 2004
989’s basketball offering has some good qualities but still lacks some of the fundamentals that make it a solid basketball game. If you don’t have a solid gameplay model, the other features won’t do the product any good. NBA Shootout 2004
does some things well though and others that just makes you shake your head.
Shooting percentages from around 10 feet and out seem pretty realistic. Contested shots usually clank off the rim unless you have a really good shooter. And even then the shot won’t go down regularly but it’ll go in sometimes. Wide open shots for good outside shooters will tickle the twine most of the time. It teaches you to better put a body on shooters or you’ll be burned many times. The baseline areas are money though for big men. It’s to a point where even a Bruno Sundov can be a monster on the scoreboard because the baseline flip seems to go in an abnormally large amount of time.
Pressing the R1 button in the air will change your shot. So if you’re getting a hand coming in to block your shot, you can press the button to alter it and hopefully throw it up past the incoming player. You can also pass out of the shot like in other basketball games and the one thing I do like about NBA Shootout 2004
is that there seems to be a bigger chance of turning it over on a pass out in traffic. Playing ESPN NBA Basketball
, I had little worries passing to a player in the middle of a jumpshot between three players. NBA Shootout 2004
makes it so you don’t rely on the method often and only use it sparingly.
Steals are pretty high in the game though and it’s not uncommon to go on big runs as you rack up steal after steal on consecutive plays. Blocks can also get out of control at times too. Defense does win basketball games but NBA Shootout 2004
’s steals and blocks occur too frequently.
You’ll see some moments where the player picks the ball up to survey the defense, ‘glide’ a good four feet, and take a jumper. You’d think traveling would be called on the player but it never happens. There were a number of times I had good positioning on a player at the top of the key after the player picked up his dribble only to see him glide to the left or right really quick, and shoot the ball. I know traveling is rarely called in the NBA these days but this is ridiculous.
Another annoyance that I found in NBA Shootout 2004
is that it’s pretty impossible to throw a quick outlet pass to a player breaking towards the basket after a basket has been made. The reason is that there’s usually a TV style camera angle of the player that made the basket running back up court, thus preventing a quick outlet pass. I’d like the right to burn the other team if they don’t hustle back on defense but NBA Shootout 2004
won’t let you.
Free throw shooting in NBA Shootout 2004
consists of pulling back both analog sticks to a certain point and releasing them at the same time. It’s sort of like the old John Elway Football
arcade game. It definitely adds some skill to shooting the free throw and I do enjoy the method that 989 Sports implemented. It’s a little easier than the method that ESPN NBA Basketball
uses while still providing a little challenge.NBA Shootout 2004
features their own right analog stick motion play and it’s inconsistent at how it works. You rotate the stick around for different moves and when it reacts it looks pretty. I do like how the player stutter steps and dribbles by. The problem is that there are plenty of times where I would move the stick and the player would just sit there. The feature certainly doesn’t help when I’m trying to put a move on my defender and nothing happens when I call for it.
If you have a microphone, you can hold down L1 and speak some plays into the microphone. It’s a very cool feature when it works but to get it to work right seems to be the problem. Many times I’d call a play only to have the game interpret what I said differently. For example, a few times I’d call 2-3 zone and see my player stand around in the man-to-man even though the game displayed that it registered my command correctly. It’s hard to determine whether it is the game, the microphone, or a combination of both. Voice recognition technology is a mixed bag still but I’m excited to see the feature improve in future versions as basketball is one game that could really benefit from using voice commands to call plays.
The game’s omission of a traditional career mode, where you take a team through a number of seasons, is counterbalanced by the inclusion of a player career mode. In NBA Shootout 2004
’s career mode, it lets you take one player through summer leagues in hopes of getting a contract from an NBA team. You’ll try to win championships and earn enough points to be entered into the Hall of Fame. It’s a great feature by 989 Sports and I had a great time playing summer leagues with lower tier NBA players and getting that first contract for 10 games from the Cavaliers. A problem with the feature though is that if you try to be a player at a position where the team has an all-star caliber player, you’ll replace that marquee player once a contract is offered. There is no way to dictate which player the team cuts to get you on the team and I was pretty miffed when I replaced Lebron James at the point guard position. That fault aside, the feature’s pretty unique and a great take on a career mode.
Player models do need some work though. A lot of the players look nothing like their real life counterpart and comparing NBA Shootout 2004
to the other NBA offerings show the game to be the worse of them all. The inaccuracy of the player models can really be seen on the faces. Out of all the NBA games on the consoles this year, NBA Shootout 2004
’s player models are the worse of the bunch. The crowds and the stadiums done well though but the main attractions of the players do need improvements.
The play by play in the game is one of the better ones but only if you are not annoyed by Bill Walton. It’s a lot less repetitive than other NBA games I’ve played and the two team announcing core of Bill Walton and Ian Eagle aren’t too shabby. They are on top of the game most of the time but do get lost in commentating occasionally by being a play or so behind.
989 Sports’ NBA Shootout 2004
is an average basketball game that does have some redeeming features. Graphics aren’t up to par and the action does produce some annoying moments at times. No traditional career mode will turn off some fans but the player career mode is a neat feature. You can even create your own dunk if you would like by adjusting certain parameters of the player as he’s going to the hoop. In the end, NBA Shootout 2004
is an average NBA basketball game that does have some unique features but not enough to make it stand out above the other offerings out there. With some improvements though, the game could contend next year.
A unique player career mode doesn't put this game in the upper echelon, but it's not a bad basketball game.